SMODO, a new piece of animation technology being created in Poland, promises to reduce costs, shorten production and post-production schedules, and simplify work on stop-motion film sets. In short, SMODO presents an opportunity to revolutionize the animation filmmaking industry and contribute to its development in a meaningful way.
SMODO technology has already been presented at Annecy’s MIFA market in France, Pixelatl Festival in Mexico, and Animator Pro and Animarkt Stop Motion Forum. It will be commercially available in the first half of 2019.
So, what exactly is SMODO? It’s an cutting-edge stop-motion technology that combines classic stop-motion animation with motion capture. The founder of the technology is Grzegorz Wacławek, a producer and animated film director, and owner of the stylistically dynamic studio Animoon. During the development of SMODO, he was supported by a team of experienced scientists, in cooperation with Warsaw University of Technology, specializing in 3d/4d visualizations and 3d data processing, among other things.
“SMODO technology will speed up the process of stop-motion animation; it will have an influence on reducing film sets, and it will eliminate expensive lighting and reduce the costs of equipment,” explains Wacławek. “And all of those will make puppet animation, so valued for its high artistic values, more available.”
How does it work?
SMODO allows for working with the classic stop-motion animation technique, while offering the flexibility and time benefits of computer animation processes. In traditional puppet animation, an animator works with a puppet that represents the animation character. In every frame, the animator must change its location and position against the stage scenery by moving the elements of the armature hidden inside the puppet (supporting oneself with a preview on the camera used for filming the scenes) and then registers the effects by taking a picture of the puppet.
In SMODO technology, the animator works only with the puppet’s armature. The specially-developed armature’s colorful markers can be manipulated and moved as in traditional stop-motion animation. Owing to the system that trakcs the markers, the armature’s pose is then transferred to 3d software.
In the software, a digital model of a puppet is transposed onto the armature. Consequently, the animator observes the whole puppet on the screen just as in classic animation. Owing to the digitalization of the armature movement (which must still be hand-crafted), in SMODO technology it is possible to both create digital stage design (instead of costlier analogue stages), freely move the camera that registers the scene, and implement any changes in lighting (a camera and sources of light are virtual and set in the 3d software). In SMODO, it is not necessary to build full puppets, the production of which can quickly become expensive.
“By using SMODO technology, one can save 25 percent of a production budget,” says Wacławek. “Moreover, it is also essential that the animator can implement changes and corrections to the shots even when the expensive and time-consuming animation process is over.”
Supporting and educating future animators
Stop-motion animation is valued and admired around the world. However, due to its technical challenges, high production costs, and labor intensive production, it is not available to everyone. By simplifying the stop motion animation process and eliminating the necessity of constructing animation puppets, SMODO promises to make stop motion a more widely accessible animation technique.
The SMODO kit offers additional tools — including filmmaking instruction and ready-made puppets — that allow for more comprehensive, faster, and cost-effective education in stop-motion techniques. Moreover, it will allow people of all ages who are interested in learning animation to create animation of a standard which in the past was reserved for professionals and large production companies.
One box offers a world of possibilities
SMODO has been in development since 2013 and it has now reached its final phase. Owing to the funding received from Poland’s The National Centre for Research and Development, the final product will be available in 2019.
SMODO will ship in both an educational version and a professional version. The education version will contain one pre-made armature (and an accompanying 3d model) as well as all the other elements necessary to use the technology. The pro version will include all the rods and markers allowing for the creation of custom-built armatures. Special software will guide the user step-by-step through the process of building the armature based on a 3d model design.
All the elements of SMODO system (cameras for registering puppet’s movement, cg software, system calibration tools) will ship in one convenient compact box. It will be also possible to buy different parts of SMODO technology separately, like cameras, rods, and markers.